The uniforms will have throwback elements to them on Saturday. Numbers on the helmets. Stripes on the pants. White cleats and gray facemasks. Even the field will have a retro look with a diamond pattern in the end zones.
Penn State’s offense won’t be following suit.
Nittany Lions coach James Franklin and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead have already lost count of the number of times they’ve been asked about going under center or using a fullback in short-yardage situations.
After Penn State missed some opportunities at the goal line against Iowa, the topic came up once again from a fan during Franklin’s Thursday radio show. And the coach decided to have some fun with it headed into the game against Indiana at Beaver Stadium.
“Just so we’re clear, this Saturday — just so I never get asked this question again — we will line up under center, we will use four fullbacks in the game, and we will run that the entire game,” Franklin deadpanned. “And then afterward, people are going to say we need to throw the ball down the field.
“We are not going under center. We are not using a fullback. We need to get more efficient at what we’re doing.”
Asked earlier in the day if he even has a fullback on his roster to use, Moorhead simply said, “No.”
“Philosophically and schematically, we’re not a two-back team,” Moorhead said “It’s like asking a wishbone team to throw out of a four-wide (formation) in a passing situation. That’s not what we do or who we are.
“I know the last game wasn’t a great cross-section of that philosophy because we got stuffed. But across the board inside the 5, our success has been very good” in 2016 and 2017.
The Lions will need to maximize their opportunities against the Hoosiers, who frequently get into shootouts with opponents even after defensive coordinator Tom Allen took over as head coach in the winter.
THREE AND OUT
Indiana’s offense looks very similar this season despite the forced exit of former coach Kevin Wilson, who reforged the team’s identity around running as many plays as possible.
The Hoosiers are still running that scheme even though new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord ran a far more conventional offense during stops at Michigan and Tennessee.
“I think a veteran coach like him, he’s done a really good job of saying, ‘OK, here is my system, and there’s a few elements from the previous regime that still fit what I’m doing, and we’re going to be able to add them,’ ” Franklin said. “I think that’s what you see.”
Indiana has averaged nearly 80 snaps per game through its first three games, peaking in the opener against Ohio State in which the Hoosiers ran 95 plays and led the Buckeyes at halftime.
“They’re still going at a fast tempo,” defensive tackle Parker Cothren said. “That’s really what they’ve been doing the last couple years, and that’s what we’ve been focusing on — getting ready for that fast play style.”
Eyes on Cobbs
Beyond the pace of play, Indiana easily boasts the best passing attack that the Lions have seen thus far. Senior quarterback Richard Lagow had success in last year’s game against Penn State, hitting deep balls that many other opponents couldn’t replicate.
The biggest challenge for the Lions will be defending 6-foot-4 wideout Simmie Cobbs, who caught an eyebrow-raising 11 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown against Ohio State.
“He’s a very talented player,” said cornerback Christian Campbell, who figures to see plenty of Cobbs across from him. “He’s kind of like a possession receiver, and he’s a pretty good player to me. I’ve been watching a lot of film on him and everything, so I’ll be up for the challenge of him this week.”
Gotta be the shoes
As for those throwback uniforms, they’re part of a promotion Penn State is billing as “Generations of Greatness.” Looking to make some headway into the realm of alternate uniforms for the program, consider this dipping a toe in the waters.
From a distance, they won’t look dramatically different, with the numbers on the helmets and the blue stripe on the legs being the most notable. Each element is taken from a different era of Penn State’s history.
So what part of it do the players like best? The answer was pretty much unanimous.
“Speaking for a lot of the guys, we’re pretty excited about the white cleats, definitely,” tight end Mike Gesicki said, referencing the shoes that the Lions previously wore for the 1979 Sugar Bowl against Alabama.
“I definitely like it, the white cleats,” wideout Juwan Johnson said. “Helmet, uniforms, everything. It’s something new for me. I never had white cleats before, so it will be interesting.”